Starting November 1, 2013, employers in Seattle will need to comply with the new Chapter 14.17 of the Seattle Municipal Code regarding the use of criminal history records for employment screening purposes.  With some exceptions, if an employee is working within city limits at least half of the time, they will benefit from the new law.   Ordinance 124201, approved in June, prohibits employers from:

  • Policies or practices which automatically exclude a candidate because of their criminal history (arrest or conviction).

An employer in Seattle must:

  • Consider all job applicants prior to conducting a background check;
  • Whenever an applicant’s criminal history may adversely impact their ability to get the job, conduct an individualized assessment which considers the criminal history, applicant and position; and,
  • Maintain the job open for at least two business days if the applicant’s criminal history will be an adverse factor against the applicant.

There is no private cause of action but there are monetary penalties for infractions.  

A similar ordinance is in effect in Newark, New Jersey.  Employers should be aware of measures such as this as they will impact your hiring policies and also be aware of Ban the Box measures, which remove the question from the application regarding criminal history.